Category Archives: FILM

Film: Chinatown

Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston were featured in Chinatown. But the real star of the movie was the screenplay by Robert Towne. Uploaded by screencrave.com.

I love film noir. Give me a good black and white mystery from the 1940s, maybe written by Raymond Chandler, with a tough private eye and a beautiful dame, and I’m a happy guy. The popularity of color naturally pushed noir into the shadows (so to speak), but it had something of a revival in the 1970s, led by the wonderful Chinatown.

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Directed by child molester  Roman Polanski (he’ll never be on this list), the movie featured Jack Nicholson (Great American Things, Sept. 12, 2009) in one of his greatest performances, along with Faye Dunaway and John Huston. But the real star of the film was Robert Towne, the screenwriter. He set his mystery in the 1930s, allowing for the true noir mise-en-scene. (Pardon my French.)

Towne’s brilliant script won an Oscar, the only one the film received out of eleven nominations. In the AFI’s original 100 Years…100 Movies, Chinatown was ranked number 19. In the 10th anniversary edition, it was 21. And it was the AFI’s number 2 mystery film. Why it wasn’t number one is… a mystery.

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Film: 12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men was the first film directed by Sidney Lumet, whose courtroom drama "The Verdict" has already been honored on this list. Uploaded by prodeoetpatria.wordpress.com.

It’s not a good thing to feel claustrophobic during a movie. And except for a couple of brief scenes at beginning and end, the “action” in 12 Angry Men (1957) takes place in a closed jury room. As they say, in the hands of a lesser director this would have been a problem. But the great Sidney Lumet (Network, The Verdict, et. al.) took this on as his very first production, and showed why he would be a directorial force for decades to come.

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If you haven’t seen 12 Angry Men, I don’t want to spoil the plot. Suffice it to say that a jury of all men debate the fate of a defendant who’s one of “those people,” and most initially consider him guilty. Henry Fonda is the lone dissenter, and he uses his powers of logic and persuasion to try to convince the others that they may be convicting an innocent man.

The film wouldn’t have worked without a terrific cast, and it had one. Among the jurors were E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, and Jack Klugman – a who’s who of great 1950s era character actors. Most forceful of all was Lee J. Cobb, leading those who believed in the defendant’s guilt. 12 Angry Men is considered one of the top courtroom dramas of all time (AFI considered it number two), and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars. And if it hadn’t come out in the same year as Bridge on the River Kwai, it might have won them.

Film: From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity featured a terrific cast, including Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, and Donna Reed. It received 13 Oscar nominations, winning 8, including Best Picture. Uploaded by 2sao.vn.

What does it take for a movie to rise above an enjoyable diversion for a couple of hours and achieve status as a classic? A great story, of course – in this case provided by the James Jones novel. An outstanding cast – would Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, and Donna Reed suffice? And a talented director, like the underappreciated Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, Oklahoma!, A Man for All Seasons, Julia).

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Made in 1953, From Here to Eternity is noteworthy for several reasons. It includes one of the iconic scenes in all movie history, with Lancaster and Kerr kissing (wink wink) in the surf. The Army wouldn’t cooperate in the making of the movie until the filmmakers agreed to make changes that didn’t reflect so harshly on the service. And the movie is credited with saving Frank Sinatra’s career, the singer having got the part only after begging Harry Cohn for the part – and after the original selection for Maggio, Eli Wallach, changed his mind and took a Broadway role instead.

From Here to Eternity received 13 Oscar nods, and won 8, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (Sinatra) and Actress (Reed). In the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies, it ranked number 52.

Film: Movies of 1962

Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne led the all-star cast of The Longest Day. The year 1962 also featured musicals (The Music Man), westerns (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), and dramas (The Miracle Worker). Uploaded by torrentbutler.eu.

I have to acknowledge up front that the highest-grossing film of the year was also the Academy Award winner: Lawrence of Arabia. A British film. But the Yanks had a memorable year as well, in fact we produced some terrific films in 1962. To wit:

The Longest Day — John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, and a huge international cast storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

To Kill a Mockingbird  — Gregory Peck wins Best Actor portraying Atticus Finch in the classic film version of Harper Lee’s novel.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane  — A horror film with an elderly Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. That’s scary.

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The Music Man — When musicals still could draw crowds, this faithful version of the Meredith Wilson show starred Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.

Mutiny on the Bounty — Neither the first nor the last time this story has been brought to the screen, but with Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard, probably the best.

Gypsy — Another great musical. With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jule Styne, how could it be less than a hit?

The Miracle Worker — It started on television in the anthology series Playhouse 90, then went to Broadway, and Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke reprised their stage roles in the film. Bancroft received Best Actress and Duke earned Best Supporting Actress.

Advise and Consent — Otto Preminger brought this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to the big screen with Henry Fonda in the lead.

Birdman of Alcatraz — Burt Lancaster in the story of the prisoner who actually spent most of his time at Leavenworth. Go figure.

Cape Fear — Robert Mitchum terrorizes Gregory Peck’s family.

Dr. No — Sean Connery makes an international splash in the very first James Bond movie. If I remember correctly, a few more have been made since.

How the West Was Won — More remarkable now as one of the last of the epic movies with a huge all-star cast.

Lolita — This story scandalized the public in 1962. One of Stanley Kubrick’s first movies, with James Mason and Sue Lyon.

The Manchurian Candidate — Frank Sinatra proves he really could act in this Cold War thriller.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance — One of the great John Ford’s last Westerns, starring Jimmy Stewart.

That Touch of Mink — Not particularly memorable, but it starred Cary Grant  and Doris Day in a romantic comedy, and that’s enough.

 

Film Studio: Pixar

All of Pixar's films are among the top 50 highest-grossing animated movies of all time - and Toy Story 3 is number one. Uploaded by moviemobsters.com.

Hard to imagine how many films 20th Century Fox has made. Or MGM. Or Universal, Columbia, Paramount. But we know how many Pixar has made. Eleven. Eleven of the smartest, most charming, and most profitable films you’ll ever want to see.

The studio began as The Graphics Group, a part of Lucasfilms. True to his reputation as a visionary, Steve Jobs purchased the group. Disney saw how Pixar’s software could help its traditionally animated movies, as well as its potential making its own computerized animation films, and bought it. Jobs bought it for $5 million; when Disney purchased it, its value was $7.4 billion. Nice going, Stevie boy.

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Here’s a complete list of the Pixar catalog:

  • Toy Story (1995)
  • A Bug’s Life (1998)
  • Toy Story 2 (1999)
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • Cars (2006)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • WALL-E (2008)
  • Up (2009)
  • Toy Story 3 (2010)

All these movies are among the top 50 highest-grossing animated movies of all time, and Toy Story 3 is number one. Altogether, Pixar films have won 26 Academy Awards and seven Golden Globes. Not to mention the hearts of millions of fans all around the world.

Film: Patton

The movie showed Patton's military genius, but also how out of place he was during a war in which generals also had to have skills in public relations. Uploaded to Photobucket by franzandfilms.

My father wasn’t a big movie fan. I can only remember going to two films with him: True Grit and Patton. The first starred John Wayne, his hero. And while Dad was in the Army during World War II, I don’t believe he was under Patton’s (Great American Things, Jan. 3, 2010) leadership. That’s how I understand it, anyway – he didn’t talk about the war. I do know that his journey from North Africa to Sicily and ultimately to Paris paralleled Patton’s advances. Dad definitely wanted to see this part of his life on the big screen.

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It’s a great movie, and George C. Scott gives a tremendous performance. In his portrayal, the scope of the general’s military skills were only matched by the size of his ego. From the iconic opening sequence in which Patton addresses his troops in front of that enormous American flag through the slapping of the shell-shocked soldier, the movie shows the general’s incredible military acumen while not shying from his lack of awareness of how a general must behave in the age of modern media.

Patton won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Scott). It ranked number 89 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies list. One of the greatest quotes in movie history also comes from this film: “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

Film: The Philadelphia Story

In a powerhouse cast that included Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart, only one earned an Academy Award for acting - Jimmy Stewart. Uploaded by listal.com.

This movie starred Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart.

Really, do I need to say anything else? Could that incredible cast possibly produce anything less than a timeless gem? We don’t know the answer to that, but The Philadelphia Storyis one of the best representations of the romantic comedy, probably the most popular film genre. Directed by the great George

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Cukor and released in 1940, the movie is taken from the play of the same name in which Hepburn also starred. (Joseph Cotten played the Cary Grant role, and Van Heflin had Jimmy Stewart’s part. Hepburn had wanted Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy for the movie roles.)

The Philadelphia Story received seven Academy Award nominations, winning two – Best Actor (Stewart) and Best Writing, Screenplay. In the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies, it ranked number 51. By the way, the film was adapted to a musical (High Society) in 1956 with another blockbuster cast: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Grace Kelly. You can bet that movie will be on this list before long.

Film: Raging Bull

It was Robert De Niro's fascination with the character of Jake LaMotta that led him to coax Martin Scorsese to direct the film. It's universally ranked among the best films of all time. Uploaded by digitalbusstop.com.

It’s a tough film to watch. The book from which its adapted, Raging Bull: My Story by Jake LaMotta wasn’t particularly good. And, as Mardik Martin, one of its screenwriters admitted, “The trouble is the damn thing has been done a hundred times before — a fighter who has trouble with his brother and his wife and the mob is after him.” And with all that, Raging Bull is near the top of virtually every list of the best movies ever made.

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The enthusiasm that eventually got the movie produced belonged to Robert De Niro, who read the book and was fascinated by the LaMotta character. Director Martin Scorsese didn’t want to direct it, but De Niro eventually prevailed on him. Scorsese, as he often did, cast unknown actors in the part, a couple of whom (Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty) went on to excellent careers.

Raging Bull received four Oscar nods and won two, including De Niro as Best Actor. In the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies list, it came in number 24. The British magazine Halliwell’s Film Guide named it number 7 best movie of all time…Roger Ebert had it in his top 10 back in 1991…Entertainment Weekly had it as number 5…and Variety ranked it number 39. I’d say we have a consensus.

Film: Movies of 1976

 

It was a great year for famous quotes. "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore"..."You talkin' to me?"..."Yo, Adrian"..."Is it safe?" Uploaded by americanrhetoric.com.

Maybe it was the Bicentennial that inspired so many excellent movies. Okay, probably not. All I know is that 1976 was one of those special years when it was fun to be a movie fan because there was always something good playing. Such as:

All the President’s Men (Great American Things, October 7, 2010) – Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman solve Watergate. Best Supporting Actor for Jason Robards.

Carrie – Brian De Palma brings Steven King to the screen for the first time.

The Eagle Has Landed – a great thriller starring Michael Caine and Donald Sutherland.

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Marathon Man – one of my personal favorites. Laurence Olivier asks Dustin Hoffman, “Is it safe?”

Network – Peter Finch won the Best Actor Oscar and railed, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Faye Dunaway earned Best Actress.

Rocky (Great American Things, August 2, 2010) – Sylvester Stallone came out of nowhere to write and direct the year’s box office winner. Won Best Picture, and Best Director (John Avildsen).

Silver Streak – First pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor is both comic and box office gold.

A Star is Born – this remake of the classic starred Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. The number two box office movie of the year.

Taxi Driver – Martin Scorsese directed, Robert De Niro starred. Won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. “You talkin’ to me?”

Film: On the Waterfront

 

The film was based on a series of investigative articles by Malcolm Johnson in the New York Sun that won a Pulitzer Prize. Writer Budd Schulberg was fascinated by them, and used them as the skeleton of his screenplay. Uploaded to Photobucket by jedimoonshyne9.

Brando at his best. That’s really all you need to know to put On the Waterfront at the top of your “must-see” list. And it’s more than just the “I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender” scene. It’s a story about the mob, and corruption, and loyalty.

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Like most great films, On the Waterfront has a terrific cast. In addition to Brando (did I mention this was him at his best?), the ensemble included Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint, and Rod Steiger. Just as important were the people behind the camera. Elia Kazan directed, Budd Schulberg wrote the screenplay, and Leonard Bernstein composed the music. Not surprisingly, the film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won 8, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay.

The legacy of the movie is evident in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years, 100… series. It ranked number 8 in …100 Movies; Terry Malloy (Brando’s character) was number 23 hero in …100 Heroes and Villains; it earned number 22 in …100 Film Scores; and “I coulda been a contender” ranked number 3 in …100 Movie Quotes.

Film: Schindler’s List

Schindler's List is the most expensive black and white film ever made. Without adjusting for inflation, though, it's also the highest-grossing b/w film ever made. Uploaded by scenicreflections.com.

Schindler’s List is Stephen Spielberg’s masterpiece. And that’s quite a statement. It tells the true story of German businessman Oskar Schindler, a not particularly sympathetic character at first who exploits cheap Jewish labor in his factory. However, he comes to see the true horror of the holocaust, and saves the lives of some 1,100 Jews.

Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009) directed Schindler’s List to have  a documentary look. He said he “got rid of the crane, got rid of the

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Steadicam, got rid of the zoom lenses, got rid of everything that for me might be considered a safety net.” Shot in black and white, it’s said that no green items were allowed on the set because green didn’t look good on black and white film.

The film earned Best Picture honors and Spielberg was selected Best Director in the 1994 Academy Awards. It also took home five other Oscars. The American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years…100 Movies put Schindler’s List at number 8 – the only movie made since 1980 to place in the top 20.

Film: North by Northwest

Cinematographer Robert Burks (and Alfred Hitchcock, of course) created two iconic images for this movie: The pursuit of Cary Grant by a crop duster, and the concluding chase scene across the faces of Mount Rushmore. Uploaded by artsmeme.com.

Alfred Hitchcock directing. Cary Grant starring. Music by Bernard Herrmann. Script by Edward Lehman. I’m sure with such credits it’s possible to make a bad movie, but it wouldn’t be easy. And North by Northwest is in the pantheon of the best movies of the 1950s, a surprisingly good decade for films.

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I didn’t mention cinematographer Robert Burks, because his career is so intertwined with Hitchcock’s. But in North by Northwest, Burks captured two of the most iconic images in Hollywood history. The first is when Cary Grant (Great American Things, June 16, 2009) is buzzed and then shot at by a biplane that’s “dusting crops where there ain’t no crops.” The second is at the film’s conclusion when Grant and Eva Marie Saint are desperately trying to escape their pursuers and make their way across the faces on the Mount Rushmore monument – a chase scene Hitchcock said he’d always wanted to film.

Despite all the luminaries mentioned at the beginning of this post, only Lehman received an Academy Award nomination. Ben-Hur dominated the 1959 Oscars, and Hitchcock was never given his proper due by the Hollywood crowd. The American Film Institute knows better, however. In its listing of 100 Years…100 Movies, North by Northwest was ranked number 40. And in the sub-list 100 Years…100 Thrills, it came in at number 4.

 

Film: Movies of 1954

 

Sabrina, starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden, didn't win any of the year's major awards, but it's one of the most-beloved - largely because of Hepburn. Uploaded by dailyfill.com.

Most of us think of the 1950s as a bland, forgettable decade. The calm before the storm. On the movie front, however, it was a decade of spectacle and style. One of its best years was 1954, which featured these movies:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Shared the prize as the year’s box office champ. Starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason. The first sci-fi film from Disney.

The Barefoot Contessa – Perhaps Ava Gardner’s finest role. Humphrey Bogart co-starred.

The Caine Mutiny – Humphrey Bogart and those little steel balls. (Great American Things, July 15, 2010)

The Country Girl – Grace Kelly won the Academy Award for Best Actress in this film that co-starred Bing Crosby and William Holden.

Dial M for Murder. Uploaded by imdb.com.

Dial M for Murder – Hitchcock’s second-most-successful film of the year. Starred Ray Milland and Grace Kelly.

On the Waterfront – The critical hit of the year, winning eight Oscars, including Best Picture. Elia Kazan directed Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint and Rod Steiger.

Rear Window – Big at the box office, and one of Hitchcock’s best. With Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. (Great American Things, September 6, 2010)

Sabrina – Billy Wilder’s comedy-drama starring Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, and Humphrey Bogart.

A Star Is Born – Maybe Judy Garland’s most famous (adult) performance. With James Mason.

White Christmas – The other co-leader at the box office. No snow in Vermont. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney. (Great American Things, December 24, 2009)

Film: That Thing You Do

Tom Hanks directed this musical about the one-hit Wonders. He also directed it. And wrote the script. And played one of the major parts. And wrote some of the songs. That's a long way from Forrest Gump. Uploaded by classicside.blogspot.com.

I’m actually quite embarrassed to say how much I like this little movie. I’m kind of a sucker for other movies with this very basic storyline, like The Glenn Miller Story with Jimmy Stewart and The Benny Goodman Story with Steve Allen. In each case, the band (here it’s The Wonders, originally the Oneders) struggles to find “the sound” that makes it distinctive. In That Thing You Do it happens quickly, when drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) takes the title song from a ballad to an upbeat dance tune at the Mercyhurst College Talent Show. (They’re “Wicked.”)

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The movie follows the band from sock hop to local rock and roll show, to the Play-Tone state fair tour, and ultimately, to the Ed Sullivan Show. Well, they called it the Hollywood Television Showcase. However, “artistic tension” between lead singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) and the rest of the band causes the breakup of the band. As their manager Mr. White (Tom Hanks) said, “One hit wonders. A very common tale.”

TTYD is Hanks’ sole film director credit, and shows just how versatile he is. (He also wrote the movie and some of the music.) It has a great supporting cast, including Charlize Theron, Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Chris Ellis, Chris Isaac, Alex Rocco, Obba Babatundé, and Rita Wilson (Mrs. Tom Hanks). The movie didn’t win any awards, and really isn’t a “serious” film. But it’s a “good watch.” By the way, has there ever been a better band name than Cap’n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters?

Film: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a complete film -- outstanding script, excellent music, great direction. And, of course, Newman and Redford. Uploaded by moviemobsters.com.

Paul Newman (Great American Things, May 17, 2009) and Robert Redford starred in just two films together — this one and The Sting (Great American Things, April 14, 2010) — which is a shame, because film audiences couldn’t get enough of them. Butch (Newman) and Sundance (Redford) were outlaws in the Old West, train robbers in what they called the Hole in the Wall Gang. This movie had everything – great acting of course, wonderful music, and a memorable script.

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That script was the work of William Goldman (Great American Things, October 13, 2010), who devotes a chapter in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade to the making of this film. Lots of interesting stuff there, including this, in which Newman and director George Roy Hill had an ongoing argument about the proper placement of a scene:

Toward the end of the first week (of rehearsal), Newman and Hill were at it again, tearing into each other, back and forth, on and on — until we were all aware of this strange, new, and altogether remarkable sound. The gofer, way across the room, in his sleep, had let fly with this whopper of a fart. Newman and Hill registered the event, paused briefly, then went back into combat.

But the fart continued.

Now they paused a second time, all of us staring at this old sleeping guy. Newman and Hill turned back to each other again —

–the fart went on and on. (All true, I swear.) Now we were all silent. Still it continued.

Everyone was aware of the fact that we were in the presence of a phenomenal physical feat. Amazing. We all had to take a break after that. The old guy slept on, eventually lapsing into silence.

Ah, hard to pass up a good fart story. Anyway, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid earned seven Oscar nominations, and won four. (It lost Best Picture to Midnight Cowboy.) Even so, it was ranked number 50 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies.

Film: It’s a Wonderful Life

 

In the movie's climactic scene, George Bailey runs to his family down the street of Bedford Falls in the snow. But the performers suffered - it was 90 degrees the day the scene was filmed. Uploaded by movieforum.com.

(Originally posted December 1, 2009)

This movie is shown on TV at Christmas, but it’s not really a Christmas movie. It just happens that its climactic scenes take place during the season. It’s a film about – well, about the goodness of ordinary people. And second chances. And sacrifice.

It’s a Wonderful Life was originally planned as a vehicle for Cary Grant. But he was never pleased with the scripts developed, and decided to make another

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Christmas movie, The Bishop’s Wife, instead. Frank Capra then bought the rights, but still had a difficult time getting a script he liked. Though he may not have known it at the time, when he cast Jimmy Stewart (Great American Things, April 8, 2009) as George Bailey, he ensured that his film would be revered forever.

The box office wasn’t kind to the movie, however. It had the bad fortune to be released one week after The Best Years of Our Lives (Great American Things, May 25, 2009), which turned out to be the highest-grossing film of the decade, and which also took most of the Academy Awards for which It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated.

The American Film Institute named it number 11 in its 100 Years…100 Movies awards. And Jimmy Stewart’s performance was chosen as the eighth greatest performance of all time by Premiere magazine. Both Stewart and Capra said that It’s a Wonderful Life was their favorite film. “The film has a life of its own now,” Capra said in 1984, “and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud… but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

Film: Miracle on 34th Street

 

The American Film Institute has named Miracle on 34th Street number 9 on its list of most inspiring films, and the number 5 fantasy film. Uploaded by katiethoughts.wordpress.com.

Does Santa Claus really exist? Edmund Gwenn has made believers out of generations of movie lovers thanks to his performance as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. This film, which also starred Maureen O’Hara and a very young Natalie Wood, is in the pantheon of Christmas classics that are a must-see every Christmas season. For me, the other movies in that category are Scrooge (the musical with Albert Finney), It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and White Christmas.

Uploaded to Flickr by djabonillojr.2008.

20th Century-Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck was not enthusiastic about making this movie. It seemed just too corny for him. Director George Seaton eventually won him over, but only after agreeing to direct the next three films of Zanuck’s choosing. Zanuck also believed that the largest audience for movies is in the summer, so in spite of Miracle on 34th Street’s content, he dictated that it be released in May. The studio’s  marketing department had to promote the movie without letting on that it took place at Christmas. Watch the trailer below to see how they accomplished this.

Miracle on 34th Street won four Academy Awards, losing out for Best Picture to Gentleman’s Agreement. The American Film Institute ranked it number nine in its list of inspiring movies, and as the number five fantasy movie of all time.

 

 

Film: Gone with the Wind

 

According to legend, more than 1,400 actresses were considered for the part of Scarlett O'Hara. Nineteen were given screen tests; the losers included Tallulah Bankhead, Jean Arthur, Susan Hayward, and Lana Turner. Uploaded by theyoungandhungry.com.

(Originally posted April 29, 2009)

Did you know that Gary Cooper turned down the role of Rhett Butler? Oh, yeah. He even said, “Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood

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history. I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.”

Clearly, Gary was no psychic. Just how big was GWTW? In 2007 the American Film Institute voted it the #6 Greatest Movie of All Time. For the premiere in Atlanta, the Governor declared a state holiday. It won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. And if total box office receipts were adjusted for inflation, it would be the number one grossing movie of all time. The projected total: $3.78 billion.

Yes, this is the first movie added to the list of Great American Things. You may think another film should have had the honor.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Film: The Movies of 1979

 

In this year of excellent movies, Kramer vs. Kramer won Oscars for Best Picture, Actor, Director, Supporting Actress, and Adapted Screenplay. Uploaded by hundland.org.

What makes some movie years better than others? Perhaps it’s better studio executives making good decisions about which movies to “green light.” Maybe a particularly talented group of directors is working in the same era. Or maybe… it just happens that way. For whatever reason, 1979 was one of those outstanding years, and here are some of the reasons why:

10 – Bo Derek, Dudley Moore, and Ravel’s “Bolero.” Directed by Blake Edwards.

Alien – Did it belong in the sci-fi or horror category? Yes. Starring Sigourney Weaver, directed by Ridley Scott.

All That Jazz – Lots of dancing, lots of dancer drama. Starring Roy Scheider, directed by Bob Fosse.

…And Justice for All – “You’re out of order! This whole trial is out of order!” Al Pacino goes nuts, directed by Norman Jewison.

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Apocalypse Now – The true madness of Vietnam. With Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando, and Martin Sheen. Directed by Frances Ford Coppola.

Being There – Peter Sellers’s tour de force as Chauncey Gardner. Directed by Hal Ashby.

Breaking Away – A father, a son, a bicycle race, a surprise hit. Directed by Peter Yates.

The China Syndrome – The movie that has crippled America’s nuclear industry. Starring Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon, directed by James Bridges.

Kramer vs. Kramer – Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep fight for custody of their child. Directed by Robert Benton. Won Academy Award for Best Picture.

Manhattan – I wanted to move to NYC after I saw this movie. I still do. Woody Allen directs, with Diane Keaton and Mariel Hemingway.

The Muppet Movie – The highest-grossing movie of the year. Directed by James Frawley.

Norma Rae – Sally Field proves she had true acting chops. Directed by Martin Ritt.

Film: This Is Spinal Tap

 

I'm sure that some parts of the movie were scripted, but the vast majority was improvised by the actors. Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner got writing credit. Uploaded by vulpeslibris.wordpress.com.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the great David St. Hubbins, the amazing Nigel Tufnel, and the wonderful Derek Smalls appeared together in one film showcasing their groundbreaking band, Spinal Tap? And what if legendary director Marty DiBergi filmed a documentary to preserve the band’s journey for posterity? Well, it actually happened, and the resulting film became This Is Spinal Tap.

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The movie was “written” by actors Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest along with director Rob Reiner — a basic storyline had been constructed, but much of the dialogue was improvised. During the film, we get to hear some of Spinal Tap’s greatest hits, including “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight,” “Big Bottom,” and “Stonehenge.” McKean, Shearer, and Guest played their own instruments and had perfect over-the-top British accents.

The parody was so well executed that several people came up to Rob Reiner after viewing the film and said they loved the film, but why didn’t he choose a more popular band for his documentary? Among the honors This Is Spinal Tap has earned are the number 29 spot on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Laughs. New York Times film critic Janet Maslin wrote, “It stays so wickedly close to the subject that it is very nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.”